Counsellor-Client Ethnic Difference: The Therapeutic Process, Relationship And Competence

Prof Doc Thesis

Patel, Miloni 2014. Counsellor-Client Ethnic Difference: The Therapeutic Process, Relationship And Competence. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology
AuthorsPatel, Miloni
TypeProf Doc Thesis

British society continues to change and grow with more and more people identifying as belonging to a minority ethnic group. As such the nature of individuals presenting to therapy is also changing and counselling psychologists are coming into more contact with clients who are ethnically ‘different’ from themselves. The literature on multicultural counselling has tended to focus on the needs of the minority ethnic client and the voice of the White therapist is notably absent. The current study aims to address this by exploring the experiences of White therapists working with clients from a different ethnicity. Six White counselling psychologists were interviewed using semi-structured interviews and their accounts were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA).

Three super-ordinate themes were identified: 1) Different worlds, 2) The reality of experience and 3) What is competence? The analysis highlights elements of the participant’s experiences that were important for them with regards to their multicultural practice. It was recognised that minority ethnic clients are likely to view the world, and indeed the process of therapy itself, differently and this would have implications for the therapeutic relationship and how the participant’s approached the process of therapy. There was also an acknowledgment of the different skills and knowledge that they would need to work effectively with minority ethnic clients. Nevertheless, the results (in particular theme two) also indicated that talking about ethnic difference between themselves and clients was something that the participants mostly avoided and there was a sense of uncertainty and anxiety about actually ‘naming’ ethnicity as something to be worked with during the therapy process. This was also demonstrated more generally throughout all the themes as the participants had a tendency to talk in general, theoretical terms rather than about their own personal experiences which implies that issues relating to ethnicity are difficult to discuss for White psychologists.

The study recommends that counselling psychology would benefit from future research exploring the reasons as to why White therapists might find it difficult to have conversations about ethnic difference with their clients, and indeed about ethnicity more generally. It is also proposed that in order to help therapists become more competent and confident in this area some definitive guidelines for multicultural counselling competencies need to be developed and implemented. These should also be incorporated into counselling training programmes so that all practitioners may become more comfortable and familiar with engaging in discourse around multicultural practice.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Publication dates
PrintFeb 2014
Publication process dates
Deposited23 Feb 2015
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